Since India went into lockdown on 25 March with 1.3 billion people shuttling indoors – with just 4 hours' notice – the country has recorded over 138,000 COVID-19 cases (at the time of writing). We were supposed to come out of lockdown on 3 May, but that has now been extended to 31 May, and may further continue into the next few weeks.
In order to help get India get back to normalcy, each state government has recently created special zones – red, orange and green zones, with mobility restrictions of varying gradations for each zone. The central government has also announced a $265 billion stimulus package – amounting to 10% of the national GDP – which will hopefully help India's economy get back on its feet. At the moment, however, no separate stimulus packages have been announced for the tourism industry, which unfortunately has no prospect for a speedy recovery.
Still waters before the cyclone hit West Bengal
Lockdown on ABN ships
In the meantime, our crew on ABN Charaidew II, ABN Rajmahal and ABN Sukapha are all still on board the ships, unable to go back to their homes until lockdown lifts. The crew have been extremely conscious of not coming into contact with anyone, respecting the wishes of the local communities and staying on board the ships – venturing out only to the jetty to collect supplies. In other words, they haven't stepped on land in over 2 months! Are "river legs" (like sea legs) a thing? We may just find out once lockdown ends.
Last week, a once-in-a-generation super cyclone hit West Bengal, where ABN Rajmahal and ABN Sukapha are anchored on the Ganges. Needless to say, cyclone Amphan brought the most torrential rain and wind that the crew have ever personally come across, but we are pleased to report that all crew are safe and sound, with the ships also unscathed.
Side note: at this point, may we also take this opportunity to say that if there are any messages that you would like us to pass on to the crew and staff, do feel free to email us. As India went into lockdown, we created a WhatsApp group with all colleagues which we've been using to not only share updates on the pandemic, but also help each other remain motivated and positive during these times.
Supporting our staff
In our last newsletter, we stated that we took a pledge to continue to financially support all 300 employees and their families during this pandemic. It's a pledge that we will continue to uphold, but we wanted to be transparent with you, our patrons, in light of changing circumstances.
On 13 May, we announced to our colleagues that, until the government provides more information on how SME players like us can obtain economic relief from the recently announced $285 billion stimulus package, we have had to make pay cuts for those colleagues who earn above a certain amount. No doubt that we will be applying to receive the fullest extent of economic relief from the government once it's available – but until such time – in order to keep afloat as an employer in one of the hardest-hit industries, this was the best course of action.
Truly, we have the best colleagues because the outpouring of empathy, understanding and kindness from them simply reinforces to us that we are doing the right thing... at a time when everything else seems uncertain.
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